By BUILDER Magazine Staff. Much like opinion polls, trying to figure out what home buyers want is an inexact science. Take a look at what's flying off the shelves in design centers, however, and the picture becomes clearer.
Yes, more than ever, people lead hectic lives so they want luxury products to pamper their aching and over-worked bodies. They also are choosing to entertain at home more, so they want to personalize their spaces with unique selections that will make their party guests green with envy.
The following pages feature five hot kitchen and bath trends that can help you better satisfy your buyers. No longer content with ceramic tiles, buyers are looking to glass to add pizzazz, and though homeowners still want color, they are moving beyond paint and using light fixtures in a variety of colors, styles, and finishes.
Of course, you'll never be able to please everyone, but read this for some great ideas on how to keep your home buyers happy or at least very interested.
Chroma therapy: Chroma glass tiles feature a textured surface that is perfect for wet areas, including outdoor pool applications. The translucent product is made up of 1-by-1-inch pieces netted on a 12-inch-square sheet for easy installation. It is available in five colors such as moss, sea, and sky. Ann Sacks. 800-278-8453. www.annsacks.com.
Glass menagerie: Handmade from pure glass, these New Hope tiles are smooth on the surface but offer a deeply textured look underneath. They are scratch-resistant and will withstand cleaning agents and other chemicals. Field tiles come in standard industry sizes and 24 colors, but custom shapes and sizes up to 18 by 24 inches are available. Vitrium. 215-766-3095. www.vitriumtiles.com.
Trend 1: Slick and Shiny
Ceramic tile is a tried-and-true product that is still popular with home buyers, but the future is in glass, and nowadays manufacturers cannot make it fast enough. Glass tiles create the one-of-a-kind look that buyers want, says a spokesperson for glass tile manufacturer Vitrium in Plumsteadville, Pa. As a result, consumers gobble up 2 million square feet of the product every year, and that figure is growing rapidly. Glass is much more interesting than ceramic, offering depth of color, translucency, and light. It is impervious to liquids, resistant to fading, staining, and discoloration, and it installs in the same manner as ceramic tile.
Cone head: Perfect for above-counter installations, this pendant features a mouth-blown Italian cone-shaped glass shade in vibrant multi-colored hues, such as blue/green and yellow/red. Adaptable to the manufacturer's MonoRail track system, the pendants come with metal cords in different finishes: chrome, platinum, and satin brass. W.A.C. Lighting. 800-526-2588. www.waclighting.com.
City of industry: Harking back to the '40s and '50s, the Soft Industrial line is perfect for home buyers who want a loft-style interior. Each pendant features an inverted drum-shaped canopy made of spun aluminum with a 5-inch opening. A sandblasted white opal acrylic diffuser ring secures to the outside with three metal clips and provides a soft white glow. The fixture can be used with a variety of lamp styles. D'ac Lighting. 914-698-5959. www.daclighting.com.
Trend 2: Color Me Good
Consumers continue to flock to color like a bear to a stream during salmon spawning season. But paint and home furnishings are not the only sources for color; buyers are opting for bold light fixtures as well. Manufacturers such as Bruck Lighting in Costa Mesa, Calif., and LBL Lighting in Chicago Heights, Ill., say consumers are buying up colored fixtures--whether it be pendants or wall sconces--in record numbers. They are using them as a decorative as well as a lighting element. And for those consumers who like the industrial aesthetic, manufacturers also offer the popular brushed finishes in hues such as copper, nickel, and bronze.
Standing free: If it weren't for the sink and faucet, this Brook console table might pass for an ordinary end table. However, the freestanding unit is intended for the bathroom. Made from solid poplar and maple veneers, the product offers two sink installation options. A matching wood top is available, or it comes with a midnight black granite or alabaster white marble top. The product measures 28 inches wide, 20 inches deep, and 34 inches high, and is available in three finishes. American Standard. 732-980-3000. www.americanstandard-us.com.
Life of the pantry: This working/bar stand-alone pantry is the manufacturer's newest introduction. It may function as a single unit, or it can be one of four pieces that help to create an open kitchen. Measuring 83 1/2 inches tall and 48 inches wide, the unit features flat panel sides, with cornices, and small coves. The door style is also flat-paneled with wood dowels. Shown in an antique painted exterior, it is available in pine, maple, cherry, and mahogany. YesterTec. 610-838-1194. www.yestertec.com.
Trend 3: Furniture Style
If you are still only using traditional cabinetry that looks as if it was built in, you might want to take a look at cabinetry that looks like freestanding furniture. Whether in a contemporary or period look, furniture-style cabinets have emerged as the newest must-haves for bathrooms, American Standard says. Which is why the company has introduced different lines to satisfy different tastes. But the furniture look is equally popular in the kitchen. Princeton, Minn.-based Crystal Cabinet Works now offers Signature Rub-Thru, a finishing process that is designed to give cabinets the appearance of old furniture that has been finished repeatedly over the years.
Platinum power: This 611 Model refrigerator features the manufacturer's new platinum stainless steel finish for buyers who want more customization options and a less, fingerprint-prone product. The unit, which offers more than 16 cubic feet of storage capacity, measures 30 inches wide and features the refrigerator above and the freezer drawer below. The two-tier pullout drawer includes an icemaker. Sub-Zero. 800-222-7820. www.subzero.com.
Trend 4: Steel Away
Once upon a time, stainless steel was the finish of choice for appliances. While it was still hot, some consumers wanted a choice, either because they got bored or disliked the high-hued finish's tendency to show smudges. Now they have it. Madison, Wis.-based Sub-Zero recently announced that carbon stainless steel and platinum stainless steel finishes will soon be available on all of its products. The company says the platinum will not show fingerprints, though carbon is similar to regular stainless steel. Benton Harbor, Mich.-based Whirlpool also has introduced the Satina stainless steel look on some of its refrigerator lines. Though not made of stainless steel, the finish blends with other stainless steel appliances and will not show fingerprints or smudges. And Englewood, N.J.-based L.G. Electronics recently introduced a refrigerator with a titanium finish that resists fingerprints.
Sans serif: The builder-grade Serif Suite makes the bath fixtures selection process easier for the builder and the buyer. The line includes a 5-foot oval bathtub/whirlpool bath, self-rimming lavatory, and a two-piece toilet. The tub measures 21 inches deep and the 1.6-gallons-per-flush toilet features the company's new Ingenium flushing system. Kohler. 800-456-4537. www.kohler.com.
Classical style: The Carrollton suite includes a skirted toilet with the manufacturer's G-Max flushing system, a bidet, and a self-rimming and pedestal lavatory. The toilet, bidet, and pedestal feature a molding style treatment at the base to blend with more classical architecture. TOTO. 770-282-8686. www.totousa.com.
Trend 5: Suite Emotion
Consumers are much more educated these days, but they may not have the time to select all the bath products you have to offer them. Manufacturers like Kohler, Wis.-based Kohler are making it easier. The company offers coordinating suites in different price points, including the high-end Purist. And it now offers a coordinated collection of transitionally designed builder-grade bathroom fixtures. "It's about helping the builder and the consumer take the guesswork out of selecting the bath design," says Todd Weber, a senior communications specialist with the company. Duluth, Ga.-based Duravit USA is also getting in on the act. Late last year, the company debuted the affordably priced Starck 3 collection, the first designer line for the contract sector.